CHICAGO (CBS) — A Cook County jury has convicted Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery — one count for each time he shot Laquan McDonald — but and acquitted him of one count of official misconduct in the fatal shooting nearly four years ago.
Van Dyke showed no visible emotion as the jury announced the guilty verdicts against him.
Jurors deliberated approximately 7 ½ hours over parts of Thursday and Friday before announcing their verdict.
Judge Vincent Gaughan revoked Van Dyke’s bail after the convictions were announced. Van Dyke’s next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 31.
Van Dyke had been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery, and one count of official misconduct, but the defense had asked the jury to be allowed to consider a verdict on second-degree murder instead of first-degree. In order to do so, they were required to determine the prosecution proved the elements of first-degree murder, that the defense has shown Van Dyke believed he was justified in shooting McDonald, but that his belief was not a reasonable one.
Second-degree murder carries a much more lenient sentence than first-degree murder.
Van Dyke could be sentenced to as little as probation and as long as 20 years in prison for second-degree murder. Each aggravated battery conviction carries a sentence of 6 to 30 years in prison.
McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, was not in court for the verdict. His great uncle, Rev. Marvin Hunter, who has acted as a family spokesman, was in the courtroom with other family members.
Prosecutors called a total of 24 witnesses in the case, arguing he had no legal justification to shoot McDonald. In closing arguments, Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon and Assistant Special Prosecutor Jody Gleason both hammered away at testimony from a psychologist that Van Dyke had told his partner on the way to the scene, “Oh my God, we are going to have to shoot the guy.”
“Laquan McDonald was never going to walk home that night,” she said as she began her argument. “The defendant decided that on the way to the scene. You heard what it was that he said. ‘I guess we’ll have to shoot him.’ It wasn’t the knife in Laquan’s hand that made the defendant kill him that night. It was his indifference to the value of Laquan’s life,” Gleason told the jury.
The defense called 20 witnesses, including Van Dyke himself, and sought to paint McDonald as a dangerous criminal on a PCP-fueled “rampage.”
“Laquan McDonald was the author, the choreographer of this story,” defense attorney Dan Herbert said in closing arguments. “Jason Van Dyke had to be brought into it.”
He also said it was “unprecedented” for prosecutors to charge a police officer with first-degree murder for doing his job while responding to reports of an armed offender. He called McDonald’s death a tragedy, but said it was not murder.
In tearful testimony, Van Dyke said the infamous video of him shooting McDonald 16 times “doesn’t show my perspective.” He insisted McDonald swung a knife toward him after he got out of his squad car, prompting him to open fire.
“He waved the knife across his lower right upwards across his shoulder toward my body,” Van Dyke testified.